Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Another cyclist fatality at Mission and Bay in Santa Cruz

A cyclist was killed Tuesday morning after he was passed and struck by a cement truck in Santa Cruz. According to this news report, the truck driver overtook the cyclist where there isn't room to pass, and the truck driver never apparently didn't know he hit somebody until authorities found the truck several blocks away. According to witnesses, the truck driver clipped the cyclist, who fell under the wheels of the cement truck.

The intersection of Mission Street and Bay Street in Santa Cruz is one of the busier intersections in town. Bay Street provides access to the University of California in Santa Cruz, and Mission Street is California State Route 1 and a major arterial through town. Mission Street is too narrow to share and People Power, the cycling advocacy group in Santa Cruz County, has been pushing Caltrans to install "cyclists may use entire lane" signs on Mission, as this is the second fatality at Mission and Bay in nine months. If the truck driver passed the cyclist, he is fully culpable in this "accident."

People Power worked with the Santa Cruz City Council to put up signs on Mission that advise cyclists and drivers that cyclists are encouraged to use the full right lane. This is perfectly legal according to California Vehicle Code (which states that bicyclists can use the full right-hand lane when a lane is too narrow for "a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane") and was approved by the City Council.

Caltrans has refused to put up the signs, stating that they don't think it is safe for cyclists to ride in the lane, even after the Santa Cruz Police, the Traffic Safety Coalition, and others have pointed out that it is not safe to ride to the right of cars and trucks. The only safe way to do so is in the middle of the right lane. Caltrans refuses to put these signs up. In the meantime, cyclists, take the lane at this location for your own safety.


  1. ...how bloody tragic...
    ...mission street, being hwy 1 is literally always busy...i know the area from driving the coast route so many times & around bay the road is extremely narrow considering the volume & nature of the traffic...
    ...i couldn't imagine riding that stretch on a bike & yet the grid pattern leaves no clear alternative...

    ...fritz, i know you can't live far from ucsc but do you have to ride that stretch of road ???...

  2. I ride it almost every time I'm headed to west Santa Cruz or points north. I take the lane at this location because of the high number of collisions here. Even then I've had motorists nearly hook me. Truck drivers are generally pretty good about staying back until it's safe to pass. LIke you mention, it's difficult to avoid that stretch because of the terrain and street layout.

    Something I forgot to mention is that the speed limit on Mission from River Street until past Swift is 25 mph, but if traffic is clear enough noobdy ever does the speed limit.

  3. ...that is a very real fact...if they don't get caught by the lights, people regularly drive that stretch at 40mph...i've worried about getting rear ended in my car when i stopped to buy an iced tea while headed up the coast on my way home...

    ...jeez, ride safe, bud...

  4. Notice that the article does not say that Mission Street is too narrow for bicycles. Mission Street is four full lanes, from end to end. There is plenty of room for four lanes and two bicycle lanes.

    The problem is that the Santa Cruz City Council deliberately decided to not include bicycle lanes when this section of road was redeveloped. Therefore, bicyclists must take the right hand lane, as we can do legally and morally, whenever we ride on Mission Street.

    Also, the early Sentinel article this morning did not report that the bicyclist, Christopher Rock, was deaf. This puts a different perspective on this accident. Part of the cause of the accident was due to the inability of the bicyclist to be aware of on-coming traffic, since he couldn't hear it coming.

    Yes, Mission Street should have bike lanes. And bicyclists should be responsible for their own safety when riding in traffic.

  5. I know how dangerous Mission Street is, so would always just take King, Escalona, or Delaware. I would rather take an extra few minutes on a slight detour on a safer, prettier street than deal with the chaos of Mission Street. I don't even like to drive my car on Mission Street!

    A friend of mine was hit by a car at Mission and Laurel and still has major physical problems from the injuries she sustained. I hope that more drivers will be continually more aware of bicyclists, but also that bicyclists make good judgments on the routes that they take in order to best ensure their safety.

  6. From what I read the man was riding along the curb. You always, unless the road is very wide (with ample room for a bike and car to be side by side and event then you want to be at least a few feet from the curb) you'll want to take the lane and wear a helmet. I don't see how a bike lane would've helped, wouldn't that go through the intersection meaning cars turning right will hit cyclists going straight forward? If the street is 25MPH, add some traffic calming; time the lights so that it is impossible to whiz through and extend the sidewalks and narrow the lanes so that bikes have to take the lane. It's sad that we as a society value soulless hunks of metal over people's safety.